Time for change: Tackling PR's mental health problem

Mental health is a major issue in the PR and communications industry. PRWeek is working with industry leaders and experts on practical solutions to help improve the mental wellbeing of workplaces. Here is a summary of mental health in PR, what the industry is doing and who you should know.

60 per cent of PR professionals say they have suffered poor mental health (©Getty Images)
60 per cent of PR professionals say they have suffered poor mental health (©Getty Images)

Last week, Mind head of workplace wellbeing Emma Mamo shared examples of what the legal industry is doing to tackle the issue. This includes encouraging law firms and their clients become a Mindful Employer and adhere to a Charter for Employers who are Positive about Mental Health.

PRWeek is in discussions with industry bodies, mental health experts and senior PR professionals to explore initiatives this industry can undertake to help employers create mindful working environments where employees' mental wellbeing is at the heart of work practices, staff management, client relationships, business outcomes and career progression.

The Romans associate director Paddy Hobbs is one of the senior PR professionals helping with this initiative and has urged agency leaders to start taking meaningful action.

"You can have all the nice policies in the world, but if the core of your agency culture is rotten, then your staff’s mental health is going to seriously suffer. No amount of flexible working or a free gym membership is going to make up for that," Hobbs told PRWeek.

"A genuine question I have is how many agencies are looking at mental health because they actually care about their staff and their wellbeing, and how many are doing it because it sounds nice in a creds meeting or looks impressive on an awards entry?"

The business case for change could not be clearer. This year, PRWeek and industry bodies have conducted studies into the mental health of the PR industry.

How does the PR industry shape up?

In a PRWeek-PRCA study of more than 540 PR professionals, an alarming 60 per cent said they had suffered or been diagnosed with mental ill health, with stress, anxiety and depression regular symptoms experienced across the profession.

Hypertension, panic attacks, anorexia, body dysmorphia, seasonal affective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and self harm were also mentioned.

Several respondents linked their mental health issues to their workplace and almost half (49 per cent) felt more stressed than 12 months ago. Last week, Frank co-founder Graham Goodkind said that he believes unreasonable client and bullying is partly to blame.

Forty-four per cent had discussed their mental health with line managers, but many pointed to a culture where they felt uncomfortable raising the issue.

Worryingly, only 46 per cent of bosses and 26 per cent of employees view the industry as fairly accepting of people suffering mental health and only 24 per cent of bosses said their organisations had a formal policies on mental health. Of those that did, some employees regarded them as a 'box-ticking' exercise.

The evidence is compelling and solutions are in the works. PRWeek will reveal full details about an exciting new mental health initiative for agencies and in-house teams in an upcoming episode of the PRWeek podcast, The PR Show.

The industry's mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, PRWeek has curated this useful reading list on mental health in PR, how agencies are tackling the issue, and useful tips employees can use today:

Organisations you should know

  • Mind – a mental health charity that provides support, resources and useful workplace advice.
  • Time To Change – a social movement that wants to tackle mental health stigma. Check out their useful mental health organisations list and the Employer Pledge – has your business signed up?
  • Head Office – a consultancy that helps PR and comms agencies assess the mental health of their workplaces, create wellness action plans and implementation strategies, mental health workshops and wellbeing coaching.
  • SANE - a mental health charity that works to improve the quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness.
  • The Mental Health Foundation – a charity that aims to improve mental health and address the sources of mental health problems.

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